After wiping out another quarterback, racking up back-to-back 40-point games for the first time in the history of Paul Brown Stadium, and extending their home winning streak to a high of six under head coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals sense homefield advantage is a very real deal.
After Sunday's 41-20 victory over the Browns, the Bengals don't come back to PBS until Dec. 8 against the AFC South-leading Colts. But it kicks off a three-game homestand in December, where the Bengals are 14-8 under Lewis and 10-4 in the five previous PBS Decembers.
"There's no question we're starting to create this as a tough place to come win and you can see it," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said Monday as the Bengals headed into their bye week.
Whitworth should know. With 115 games as a Bengal since 2006, he's the dean of the offense and lived the 0-8 start in 2008 as well as the 10-game losing streak in 2010. So when he heard the boos cascading down from Sunday's sellout crowd in a game the offense staked the Browns to a 13-0 lead with two interceptions and no first downs, Whitworth wasn't all that surprised or bowled over.
"I don't pay attention to that. You play offense like we did in the first three series, you're going to get booed," Whitworth said. "I've been here when we were 0-8, so that ain't crap. That ain't booing. I can remember seeing No. 9 jerseys getting thrown on the field at one point there."
Carson Palmer is gone, his homefield now in the desert, but a win over the Colts can give Andy Dalton something Palmer never had: seven straight PBS wins. Palmer got to six from the middle of the 2009 season to a win in the 2010 home opener. But it ended in one of these Carson Boofests, that 24-21 loss to Tampa Bay where he was heckled for passing 20,000 career passing yards on a day he threw a pick-six and a fourth-quarter interception that evaporated a seven-point lead.
That one was going into a bye, too, so three years later things are much more pleasant at 7-4 and a defense that seems to suffocate any offensive mistake.
In the five home games this season, the Bengals have held foes to 26 percent on third down (18-70) while holding a wide range of quarterbacks to a 56.1 passer rating and sacking them a total of 18 times. In four straight PBS games they've rung up four sacks, and when Browns quarterback Jason Campbell hit wide receiver Josh Gordon on a 74-yard bomb Sunday early in the third quarter, it ended 11 straight quarters the Bengals hadn't allowed a TD pass at home. Aaron Rodgers got the last one back on Sept. 22, his only one of the day.
That's all he and his fellow Super Bowl winner, Roethlisberger, could manage against defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's men. The guy who won the big game three times, New England's Tom Brady, couldn't get one and neither could Jets first-rounder Geno Smith.
The last quarterback to throw more than two TDs against the Bengals at PBS? Denver's Peyton Manning back on Nov. 4, 2012, a span of 10 home games.
"Offenses are struggling to come in here and play well because not only is it a good defense, but the atmosphere is loud and your calls in situations for them to want to get the ball out quick and the timing to be off; kind of what we've always dealt with going to Pittsburgh and Baltimore," Whitworth said.
The last time the Bengals hit six straight at home besides 2009-10, it was at Riverfront Stadium when Bruce Coslet won his first six home games as head coach, culminating with the 1997 opener. They're shooting for 10 straight, the run put together by the '88-89 Bengals at Riverfront.
Go to the head of the class if you knew that the 1999 Bengals were the last team to go for 40 in back-to-back games at home. They finished 4-12 but beat the 49ers, 44-30, and then won the last football game ever at Riverfront, 44-28, against Cleveland.
"When you start creating that environment, it gives you a chance, honestly, to be that much better as a team," Whitworth said. "Because now with your home schedule, every single team has to worry about coming into a tough environment and they've also got to play you."